Monday, November 7, 2011 — Week of Proper 27, Year One
Willibrord, Archbishop of Utrecht, Missionary to Frisia, 739
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 992)
Psalms 80 (morning) // 77,  (evening)
Nehemiah 9:1-15, (16-25)
“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! It has become a dwelling place of demons… For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxury.”
Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you do not take part in her sins, and so that you do not share in her plagues…” (Revelation 2a, 3)
I heard a brief news report on the radio this morning that more than 600,000 accounts shifted from major banks to credit unions and community banks Saturday as a result of a Facebook campaign that started as a protest against Bank of America’s attempt to charge a monthly fee for debit cards.
Last year our Servant Leadership School held a class on money. I can’t pull up the exact numbers, but around a dozen households paid off over $30,000 in debt during the class series and nearly all the participants ended their dependence upon credit card debt.
Last Thursday sixteen activists were arrested at the corporate headquarters of Goldman Sachs where they protested the behavior of the company which was a key part of the economic meltdown. Senior employees of Goldman Sachs received bonuses of $18 billion in 2009, $16 billion in 2010, and $10 billion in 2011 while ordinary people were living with rising and food costs and home foreclosures. “This massive transfer of wealth upwards by the Bush and Obama administrations, now estimated at $13 trillion to $14 trillion, went into the pockets of those who carried out fraud and criminal activity rather than the victims who lost their jobs, their savings and often their homes,” said Chris Hedges, one of the arrested activists.
And today I hear European economic anxiety shifting from Greece to Italy, whose depth of debt is so massive that should Rome default, it would make the problems in Greece seem like chump change.
Current scholarship contends that the Book of Revelation was not written as an encouragement to churches under persecution. There is no evidence of Roman persecution in the area the book addresses during the time it is believed to have been written.
The threat that Revelation speaks to is the seductive temptation of the wealth, glamour and luxury of the Empire – the evils of materialism. The text of the Book of Revelation sounds a bit like some of the speeches at the various Occupy Wall Street rallys. “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!” For “the nations have drunk the wine of the wrath of (Babylon’s) fornication, and the kings have committed fornication with her, and the merchants have grown rich from the power of her luxury.” Ordinary people have taken to the street, and they are commenting on an unjust financial and economic system, saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you do not take part in her sins, and so that you do not share in her plagues.”
The Book of Revelation as a treatise against greed and abuse of power reads like today’s headlines.